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Left Bottom - November 9, 2007 - page 28


KMT Journals

by Mark Henderson




It can only be compared to the “gut shot” feeling we got as young baseball players. Having an opportunity to be the hero as the final batter in our little league games filled our youthful thoughts.

Stepping up to the plate with the outcome hanging in the balance, our ability to time the pitcher’s “smoker” (pun intended), was the moment we all dreamed of.


The crowd was screaming and chanting our name (okay, okay, Mom, Dad, and little sister were at least clapping loud and yelling for us).  In our mind’s eye, our limp-armed adversary unleashes his best “heater.”  Flush contact, followed by the resounding “crack,” precedes the cliché, “Goodbye Mr. Spalding.”


Unfortunately, if you are anything like me, dreams don’t always come true.  I was generally stirred from my day dream by looking up from my desk to find my fifth-grade teacher standing by my side, asking if I planned on “joining the class today.”


Many times a king mackerel tournament ends less like our dreams and more like the final “at bat” depicted in the historic poem “Casey at the Bat,” by Ernest L. Thayer.


…The sneer has fled from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
            He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
            And now the pitcher holds the ball, and how he lets it go,
            And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
            The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
            But there is no joy in Mudville--great Casey has struck out.


Regardless of their experience or level of skill, tournament king mackerel fishing teams have suffered this sense of unproductiveness.


The best way I can describe the feeling is to compare it to the infamous fire ant or mosquito bite.  The next thing you know it’s just there, stinging, itching, and irritating the heck out of you for the next week.  You really didn’t do anything to deserve it; it just kind of happened.


Striking out in a king mackerel tournament is just part of the game.  As fishermen, we work diligently to keep from putting up the old “goose egg.”


A baseball player generally only has 24 hours to suffer in his or her own self-pity before getting an opportunity to recover from that dreadful 0 for 4 night at the plate; whereas tournament fishermen get the wallow in theirs for at least a week.


How does “it” happen?  We go fishing.  Preparation plus desire sometimes just does not meet with opportunity.  In a way, it is kind of what makes this sport so intriguing.


After three consecutive good tournaments earlier this year (including a second place finish) my Liquid Fire Fishing Team was riding high… until...  the drought hit us hard.  Two tournaments in a row we came back to the boat ramp with the dreaded “O ‘fer.”


It’s hard to believe that a 42-year old man can take something so hard.  I haven’t shed a tear yet (at least where no one can see me), but I have certainly experienced an emptiness after a lackluster performance.


I have played or coached sports my entire life, but I don’t ever remember being more passionate about one.  I’m not sure if I love it or love to hate it more.  Maybe we take it too seriously; maybe our ego gets more damaged than our reputation.  But, striking out is a reality, as is learning how to deal with it. 


I’ve tried to tell myself, “It’s just fishing,” but I’m not convinced.  It just feels like more.


Competition, more internal than the external drive to compete with much more accomplished teams, seems to be the only way that I can justify the passion for this expensive and wacky hobby.


But like all the baseball diamond enthusiasts who can’t wait to get back in the batter’s box to prove, not only to the fans, but to themselves, their ability, fishing teams long for the next opportunity to soar over five-foot seas with screaming props.


The chance to do battle with the mysterious silver torpedo, lays claim to our thoughts and dreams as we seek at least a morale victory the next time out.  Much like the return of Casey to the plate in Grantland Rice’s follow-up poem, “Casey’s Revenge,” tournament teams peer…


Above the fence in center field in rapid whirling flight
            The sphere sailed on--the blot grew dim and then was lost to sight.
            Ten thousand hats were thrown in air, ten thousand threw a fit
            But no one ever found the ball that mighty Casey hit.


O, somewhere in this favored land dark clouds may hide the sun,
            And somewhere bands no longer play and children have no fun!
            And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall.
            But Mudville hearts are happy now, for Casey hit the ball.


This opportunity that I have been given to share with my family 15 tournament weekends a year is special.  Thanks to all who make king mackerel tournaments so interesting, fun and challenging!  We truly are privileged!


After all, it really is just fishing, and can you think of any better sport to strike out in?


Mark Henderson is the captain of the Cape Carteret, NC-based Liquid Fire Fishing Team sponsored by: Intreptid Powerboats, Yamaha Outboards, Cannon Downriggers, Accurate Fishing Products, AmeraTrail Custom Trailers, Simrad, Best Buy Marine, Optima Batteries, Yo-Zuri, Ocean-Tamer Bean Bags, Sportsman’s Toy Store, Crystal Coast Graphics, SPRO/Gamakatsu, Pro Chips, Columbia Sportswear, Costa Del Mar, Lee’s Livebait and Stevenson Automotive Group.

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